A number of people have expressed their concern about unemployment amongst British Merchant Navy Officers and the wider problems of low wages and conditions in the industry.
My SNP colleagues and I believe that it is of utmost importance to ensure that the future of the Maritime industry is guided by a strong vision and plan vis-à-vis employment, fair conditions, business and safety. Indeed, my colleagues, Drew Hendry MP, Chris Stephens MP and Martyn Day MP, spoke on this issue in Parliament in January of this year. In Scotland, the RMT and Nautilus International have welcomed actions brought about by CalMac with regards to pay and conditions. Some operators do engage in exploitative practices which abuse the complexities of the national minimum wage regulations. The SNP therefore joins in the disappointment of the RMT and Nautilus International who have highlighted that the UK Government rejected the recommendation of the Transport Select Committee for an independent review of how the MCA will take on new responsibilities without a proportionate increase in its resources.
The SNP is also concerned by the ageing profile of UK seafarers and the lack of young people pursuing a career in the industry; it is important that more is done to reverse this trend and reduce the risk of loss of skills among our home-grown seafarers. The UK Government’s UK Seafarer Projections 2016 – 2026 report states that fewer young people are choosing a career at sea and as a result the supply of UK officers is set to fall by 18% between 2016 and 2026. While this underlines the fact that the UK Government must do more to address this problem, it also means that CEC officers are important, particularly in terms of safety, to ensure UK-vessels do not suffer from a shortage of qualified officers in the future.